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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS
The novel is set during the Second World War. It revolves around a number of Jewish families who have traveled from Russia to Williamsburg, New York, hoping to find a safe haven. They have attempted to create in America a Jewish milieu similar to that in their ex-homeland. Throughout the novel, there are descriptions of Jewish beliefs, religion, customs, traditions, values, and style of life. Although the entire plot of the novel takes place in the same area of Williamsburg, there are many references to other locales, especially in connection to the war.
LIST OF CHARACTERS
Daniel (Danny) Saunders
He is the son of Rabbi Reb Saunders and the protagonist of the novel. He is a brilliant boy who is confused by the ideologies of his Hasidic religion. His friendship with Reuven helps him to understand himself.
He is the Rabbi of the Hasidic sect of Jews living in Williamsburg and the father of Danny. A deeply religious and God fearing man, he has a great influence on the Jewish people in his sect; he wishes he had as much influence on his oldest son.
He is the son of Professor David Malter, who brings up Reuven to be strong and think for himself. He becomes Danny's friend and helps him to understand his life, his values, and his religion. Influenced by his own activist father, Reuven disapproves of Rabbi Saunders' philosophies, which seem tyrannical and orthodox to him.
He is Reuven's father, who is a teacher at the "yeshiva" (school) where Reuven studies. In many ways, he is the exact opposite of Reb Saunders, for he is liberal and understanding and takes the time to explain everything to his son. He is actively concerned about the Jewish fate in the world, especially in America.
He is the sports coach at Reuven's school. Although he is not a very religious Jew, he is a very good human being.
He is one of Reuven's hospital mates. He projects a jolly and carefree exterior to hide his own ill-health.
He is the blind boy in the bed next to Reuven in the hospital. His surgery to restore his vision is unsuccessful, which upsets Reuven.
She is the housekeeper in the Malter home. She has taken care of Reuven since his mother's death.
He is Danny's psychology professor at Hirsch College. He guides Danny, helps him understand the value of experimental psychology, and makes his realize that Freud does not have all the answers.
The professor of the Talmud class at Hirsch College. He appreciates the brilliance of both Danny and Reuven, but advises them to keep radical thinking away from his class.
He is a sickly child and the younger brother of Danny. Danny hopes that he will become a rabbi in his place.
She is an attractive girl. Reuven expresses an interest in her, but Danny informs him that she is already promised to a Hasidic Jew, as is customary.